3 things you need in your boat (other than tackle!)

If you're like me or most of the fishermen I know, you have enough rods, reels, line and lures in your boat to test its flotation. We all have our favorites when it comes to the gear we use. In this article, though, I want to talk about a few of the other things we all need to carry when we're out fishing — three things that you'll never find me without no matter when or where I'm fishing.

1. Sunscreen

Not that many years ago, anglers didn't do much to take care of their skin. They'd fish all day in a T-shirt and shorts and pay no attention to what the sun was doing to them until they got a nasty sunburn. Then they'd rub on a little aloe or other cream and wait until they felt better and do it all over again.

Fortunately, those days are over. We're smarter, and we have the products to help us enjoy our favorite outdoor sports for decades while significantly reducing our chances of getting skin cancer or developing other problems. The catch is that we have to use them, not just know about them or have them in our boats.

I actually start my sunscreen ritual each morning before I leave home. It starts with Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Sunblock Lotion SPF 70+. It's light on my skin and gives me a lot of protection. I put it on in front of a mirror so I can make sure I'm getting good coverage with it. If you start before you're on the water and before you're sweating, you give your skin a chance to absorb the lotion and it lasts a long time.

Once I'm on the water, if the sun's out really bright I might reapply the sunscreen halfway through the day. That helps to keep my skin cool and comfortable and keeps my mind on fishing.

2. Food and water

The most important thing you can do for yourself while you're on the water is to stay hydrated and replenish the things your body is expending while you fish. It starts with water. There's just no substitute for it, and you need to carry plenty. I prefer water to sugary sports drinks, though I usually carry one small sports drink when the air temperature is over 90 degrees.

Food is critical, too. I make sure to eat something at least every three to four hours I'm on the water. My favorites are the Supreme Protein bars. They're nutritious and come in lots of flavors that taste great, but you really shouldn't get so hung up on what you eat as long as you have something during the course of the trip. Even a pack of crackers is better than nothing when you're on the water all day.

After three or four hours, your body will have used up whatever fuel it finds in your stomach, so you need to replenish it. Carry plenty of snacks and water. It's a lot better to have some left over at the end of the day than to run out.

3. Tools

There are a lot of moving parts on a bass boat, and if you don't carry the tools you need to fix or maintain them, you could find yourself up a creek wishing you had a paddle. Screwdrivers, multi tools, vice grips, duct tape and cable ties are just a few of the things I always keep in my boat for emergencies like that.

No, it's not very likely that you're going to be able to completely repair a piece of equipment that goes down when you're on the water, but you might be able to make it function well enough that you can keep fishing, get back to the ramp or otherwise salvage the day. That's a big deal whether you're fishing for a tournament check or just out with family and friends.

Originally published November 2012